Intellectual Property
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I. Copyright

(Note: The contents of this topic are subject to change in view of the current legislative proposal to amend the Copyright Ordinance. The relevant contents will be updated if the proposed amendments are passed into law.)

Copyright is a form of property rights. It protects the way authors express themselves, which can be in the form of a written essay, an art work, a piece of music, a film, etc. If a person owns the copyright of a work, the person will have the exclusive right to carry out certain acts in respect of the work, most importantly, to copy and exploit (e.g. sell) the work, and to prevent others from copying or exploiting the work without authority.

In Hong Kong , copyright is governed by the Copyright Ordinance (Cap. 528 of the Laws of Hong Kong) under which only the following nine categories of works enjoy copyright.

Category of Work


Literary Works

Written works, such as poems, novels, essays, letters, lyrics, computer programs, design specifications, user manuals, tables, and compilations.

Dramatic Works

Works intended to be performed, such as works of dance and mime, film scripts, and screenplays.

Musical Works

Musical scores.

Artistic Works

Graphic works (paintings, drawings, diagrams, maps, charts, plans, engravings, etchings, lithographs, and woodcuts), photographs, sculptures, collages, buildings (and models for buildings), and works of artistic craftsmanship (e.g. jewelries).

Sound Recordings

Recordings of sounds regardless of medium e.g. gramophone records, tapes, CDs, MP3 files stored on memory chips.


Recordings of moving images regardless of medium e.g. tapes, VCDs, DVDs, MPEG files stored on memory chips.


Wireless transmissions of sounds and/or visual images e.g. TV broadcasts and radio broadcasts.

Cable Programmes

Items included in a service via cable e.g. cable TV programmes.

Typographical arrangements of published editions

Layouts and typographies of published works (e.g., newspapers, books or magazines).

It is important to note that an item may be protected by more than one copyright as it may consist of more than one copyright work. A good example is a book, which may contain the following copyright works: written words (literary works), drawings (artistic works), photographs (artistic works), and the overall layout of the book (typographical arrangement). Similarly, a musical CD may comprise the following copyright works: underlying music (musical works), lyrics (literary works), and the CD as a record (sound recording). Thus if a person makes a copy of a book or musical CD without permission, the person will infringe not just one copyright but all of the copyrights embodied in the book or CD.

    General matters

  1. How do I obtain copyright?
  2. How long does copyright last?
  3. What is a copyright notice? If I am the copyright owner, is it necessary to have a copyright notice on my work?
  4. How do I find out who owns the copyright in a particular work?
  5. How do I obtain permission to use a copyright work?
  6. Are there any works that I can use freely without having to obtain permission in respect of copyright?
  7. Further to question 6, are government publications in the public domain?
  8. Is my copyright valid in other countries?
  9. Is the copyright of a foreigner valid in Hong Kong?
  10. How is an assignment of copyright different from a licence of copyright?
  11. What are moral rights?
  12. Do performers enjoy copyright protection for their performances?

  13. Ownership of copyright

  14. Who owns the copyright in a work? Would different categories of work result in different ownership of copyright?
  15. A free-lance programmer has written a program to keep track of my company's inventory. I have paid him in full but we have never discussed the ownership of the program. Am I the copyright owner of the program? If not, do I have any rights in the program?
  16. I have written a book with two other co-authors. The book consists of 12 chapters and each of us is the sole author of 4 chapters. How is the copyright in this book shared between us?
  17. I have written a book with two other co-authors. None of us is the sole author of any part, as we all contributed to the writing and revising of each chapter. How is the copyright in the book shared between us?
  18. What happens to the copyright in a work when the company that owned it no longer exists or has been taken over?

  19. Copyright and information technology

  20. Does the same copyright law apply to electronic materials as printed materials?
  21. What is meant by a "multimedia work"? Is there anything special about the copyright in such a work?
  22. Are website postings and email messages protected by copyright? What about domain names on the Internet?
  23. I have downloaded images from a website situated in the United States. Which country's law would be used to determine whether or not I have infringed a copyright – US law or Hong Kong law?
  24. Is it legal to link to a webpage (insert a hyperlink on one webpage that links to another webpage) without obtaining its owner's consent?